Alabama-Georgia? OU-Texas? 31 Best College Football Rivalries
When you think about great football rivalries, most people likely think of classic NFL rivals. The Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears or Steelers vs. Ravens are two that come to mind, but fans’ connections to those rivalries only run surface deep. Even the biggest Packers or Steelers fans wouldn’t necessarily call themselves a Packer or Steeler, unless they played or worked for the teams at some point. But that’s what makes college football connections so different, as alums are the school they once attended.
An Alabama alum saying “we” in reference to the football team seems much more appropriate than a Steelers fan saying “we” in regard to his favorite team that he likely spent lots of money to see in person but was never an employee of the organization. Thus, in regard to college football rivalries, there’s a built-in passion and disdain for the other side that pro sports can’t emulate.
There are many ways in which these college football rivalries were formed, whether it be through being conference foes, through geographic locations or even via parallel eras of success. College sports and rivalries are like two peas in a pod, and these are the best ones we’ve seen on the gridiron.
31. Alabama vs. Georgia
Total meetings: 72
All-time series: Alabama leads 42-26-4 (.611 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Georgia vs. Alabama
These two were matched up for the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship, and Georgia won the high-stakes game for the first time in 41 years. It was a perfect way for both teams to celebrate their more than 125-year anniversary playing one another. The two southeastern teams first faced off in 1895 in Columbus, Georgia, and they’ve continued to meet regularly for decades.
In the beginning, Georgia had the lead, but Alabama’s since beaten out the Bulldogs almost twice as much. A division split in 1992 made this rivalry less frequent, but it’s still as fun as ever to watch, especially when they’re matched up in championship games.
30. Iowa vs. Iowa State
Nickname: El Assico
Trophy: Cy-Hawk Trophy
Total meetings: 68
All-time series: Iowa leads 46-22 (.677 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Iowa vs. Iowa State
Since Iowa State is known as the Cyclones, and Iowa is known as the Hawkeyes, the trophy name is a combination of the two nicknames. This rivalry is known for the various winning streaks that occurred during its history.
Iowa State won the first three games followed by a five-game winning streak by Iowa. Then, during the 1980s and ’90s, the Hawkeyes won 15 consecutive only for the Cyclones to win five straight immediately afterwards. After the 2021 game, Iowa is on another streak, winning an impressive six straight.
29. Florida vs. Georgia
Nickname: World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
Trophy: Okefenokee Oar
Total meetings: 100
All-time series: Georgia leads 54-44-2 (.551 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Georgia vs. Florida
When it comes to the locations that produce the most four- and five-star recruits, four states are a cut above the rest. They are Texas, California, Florida and Georgia, and only two of those four share a boundary. That would be Florida and Georgia, which has an intense recruiting battle every year and a heated rivalry involving the Gators and Bulldogs.
Their annual game has been played in neutral-site Jacksonville since 1933, and the series has been virtually even since then, with Georgia having 45 wins and Florida having 42 wins.
28. Michigan vs. Notre Dame
Total meetings: 44
All-time series: Michigan leads 25-17-1 (.593 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Notre Dame vs. Michigan
Despite not having a nickname or a trophy, there is no older major rivalry in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) than Michigan vs. Notre Dame. It was first competed in 1887, which Michigan won, and the Wolverines have held the lead during the duration of the series. Michigan won the first eight meetings, but the teams are 17-17-1 since then.
Despite being such a historic matchup in college football, neither program has any plans to make this an annual or biannual rivalry. The last game took place in 2019, and the next ones will be home-and-home series in 2033 and 2034.
27. Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
Nickname: Bedlam Series
Trophy: Bedlam Trophy
Total meetings: 116
All-time series: Oklahoma leads 90-19-7 (.826 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
The first ever meeting between these two teams was in 1904, and OU stomped OSU to the tune of 75-0. That game set the tone for the series, as the Sooners have continued to stomp the Cowboys. The Sooners have five different win streaks of at least eight games in the series, including 19 straight victories from 1946-64. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have never even strung together three wins in a row in the all-time series.
However, the Bedlam Series goes beyond football, as numerous other sports between the schools are rolled into the rivalry. And on the wrestling mat, Oklahoma State reigns supreme. Even though the Sooners’ seven national championships is impressive, OSU has an NCAA-record 34 wrestling national titles.
26. Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
Nickname: Egg Bowl
Trophy: Golden Egg
Total meetings: 118
All-time series: Ole Miss leads 64-45-6 (.587 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Mississippi State vs. Ole Miss
Contrary to popular belief, Mississippi isn’t nicknamed “The Egg State.” The Egg Bowl’s name stems from the original trophy in the rivalry, which dates back to the 1920s, consisting of a football-shaped piece mounted to a wooden base. But back then, the forward pass was still in its infancy, so footballs weren’t shaped in the oblong way they are today. Thus, many thought the football trophy more resembled an egg than an actual football, and the Golden Egg for the trophy’s name has stuck ever since.
However, it wasn’t until 1979 that a local sportswriter dubbed the rivalry the Egg Bowl. Prior to that, it was informally known as The Battle for the Golden Egg, which we actually kind of prefer.
25. Nebraska vs. Oklahoma
Total meetings: 87
All-time series: Oklahoma leads 46-38-3 (.548 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska
Not many games can earn the title of “Game of the Century,” but No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 2 Oklahoma in 1971 earned that moniker. OU had the nation’s top-ranked offense while Nebraska boasted the No. 1 defense, as the two teams combined for 17 of the 22 first-team All-Big Eight selections.
The game lived up to the hype with four lead changes, including two in the fourth quarter. Nebraska scored with under 100 seconds left in the game to prevail 35-31, and they would go on to finish 13-0, win the Orange Bowl and claim the national championship.
24. Lafayette vs. Lehigh
Nickname: The Rivalry
Total meetings: 157
All-time series: Lafayette leads 80-72-5 (.526 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Lehigh vs. Lafayette
No rivalry in college football has been played more times than Lafayette vs. Lehigh. These two FCS schools are located 17 miles apart in eastern Pennsylvania, but The Rivalry had gotten so popular that the 150th meeting was held at Yankee Stadium.
The Rivalry was first competed in 1884, 36 years before the NFL even existed. The early games also predate the forward pass, as displays of the game balls used in those contests indicate. While no game took place during the 2020 calendar year, two took place in 2021. One was during the Spring 2021 schedule after the Patriot League postponed its 2020 schedule, and the other took place during the normal 2021 season.
23. Florida State vs. Miami
Trophy: Florida Cup
Total meetings: 66
All-time series: Miami leads 35-31 (.530 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Miami vs. Florida State
There’s been three legendary rivalries involving all of Florida’s major programs: Miami, Florida and Florida State. Those three competing against one another comprise the Florida Cup, but the FSU vs. Miami has had some unforgettable moments.
Many of their games not only decided the conference winner, but also had national championship implications, with The U often getting the upper hand when both were highly ranked. Just imagine how many more national titles Bobby Bowden would have won if not for Wide Right I, Wide Right II, Wide Right III, Wide Left and Wide Right IV.
22. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
Nickname: Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate
Total meetings: 115
All-time series: Georgia leads 69-41-5 (.627 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
This state rivalry has an interesting historical footnote in that the games in 1943 and 1944 are counted in Georgia Tech’s record books but not in Georgia’s. That’s because this was during World War II, and Georgia’s roster was depleted by the draft and consisted of players too young to be drafted. However, Georgia Tech was able to supplant its roster with older students from the V-12 Navy College Training Program, giving them a huge advantage in their games.
After the two games, which were both Georgia Tech wins, Georgia’s sports information director decided to put asterisks in the record books for these games. But Georgia Tech has readily counted these two contests as just normal games, seeing as the Yellow Jackets won by a combined score of 92-0.
21. Alabama vs. Louisiana State University
Total meetings: 86
All-time series: Alabama leads 55-26-5 (.679 W-L%)
Bottom Line: LSU vs. Alabama
This rivalry is informally known as the Saban Bowl due to Nick Saban winning national championships at both schools. Another informal title, “Game of the Century” has been applied to two regular season contests between the programs.
The first was in 2011 and saw No. 1 LSU defeat No. 2 Alabama 9-6 in overtime. The two would then rematch in that year’s BCS Title Game in which the Tide would get their revenge and win the championship. The second came in 2019 and saw No. 2 LSU defeat No. 3 Alabama 46-41 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. LSU, powered by Joe Burrow, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, would then go on to win that year’s national championship.
20. Washington vs. Washington State
Nickname: Apple Cup
Trophy: Apple Cup
Total meetings: 113
All-time series: Washington leads 74-33-6 (.692 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Washington vs. Washington State
Over 71 percent of the apples in the United States come from the state of Washington; hence the name of the Apple Cup. The governor of the state presents the Apple Cup to the winner of each game and, more often than not, that trophy has gone to the Washington Huskies.
The series dates back to 1900, and Washington State has never had even a three-game winning streak during that span. By comparison, the Washington Huskies have had multiple eight-game win streaks in addition to eight other streaks of at least three straight wins.
19. Amherst vs. Williams
Nickname: The Biggest Little Game in America
Trophy: Johnson Trophy
Total meetings: 135
All-time series: Williams leads 74-56-5 (.569 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Williams vs. Amherst
The nickname for this rivalry derives from both teams playing in Division III, which does not offer athletic scholarships. It is the most played rivalry at that level and the fourth-most played in all of NCAA. The schools are about 50 miles apart in Massachusetts and participate in Division III’s NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference).
In 2007, ESPN recognized this rivalry as being one of the best in America by hosting College Gameday at Williams’ campus for the game. It was the first time the show had ever been hosted by a Division III school.
18. North Carolina vs. Virginia
Nickname: South's Oldest Rivalry
Total meetings: 126
All-time series: North Carolina leads 64-58-4 (.525 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Virginia vs. North Carolina
Spoiler: The South’s Oldest Rivalry isn’t actually the South’s Oldest Rivalry. That honor goes to Auburn-Georgia whose first game took place 245 days before North Carolina vs. Virginia. But you get the point of the nickname, and the rivalry is so important that in 1928 President Calvin Coolidge made the eight-hour round trip to see the game in person.
Other presidential ties include Thomas Jefferson, who founded the University of Virginia and President Woodrow Wilson, who attended law school at UVA. President James K. Polk, the 11th U.S. president, graduated from UNC in 1818.
17. Clemson vs. South Carolina
Nickname: Palmetto Bowl
Trophy: Palmetto Trophy
Total meetings: 118
All-time series: Clemson leads 72-42-4 (.632 W-L%)
Bottom Line: South Carolina vs. Clemson
The Palmetto Bowl holds the honor of being the longest continuous rivalry in all of college football, as it was contested for 111 straight years from 1909-2019. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation in 2020, but the two renewed acquaintances in 2021.
The Palmetto Bowl is just a part of the overall Palmetto Series, which is a rivalry between the two athletic departments. The two schools even compete in an annual blood drive held the week prior to the Palmetto Bowl. While the Tigers hold a huge edge in the Palmetto Bowl, the two schools are tied 18-18 in their blood drive competition.
16. Kansas vs. Kansas State
Nickname: Sunflower Showdown
Trophy: Governor’s Cup
Total meetings: 119
All-time series: Kansas leads 64-50-5 (.561 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Kansas vs. Kansas State
The Jayhawks and Wildcats aren’t exactly known for their football programs, but this in-state rivalry is as intense as any. The 119 matchups make it one of the 10 most played FBS rivalries, although the two schools disagree on the overall series record.
The 1980 game was won by Kansas, which later had to forfeit the game per the Big Eight Conference after it was found they played with an ineligible player. But since the conference mandated the forfeit instead of the NCAA, Kansas doesn’t have to acknowledge the forfeit in the record books. Thus, Kansas says the record is 65-49-5 in their favor, while KSU, and the Big 12, say it’s 64-50-5.
15. Navy vs. Notre Dame
Trophy: Rip Miller Trophy
Total meetings: 94
All-time series: Notre Dame leads 78-13-1 (.853 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Notre Dame vs. Navy
A rivalry can be slightly one-sided or thoroughly one-sided and still be a rivalry, as Navy vs. Notre Dame attests. Not only have the Fighting Irish won over 85 percent of games, but they also had a 43-game winning streak from 1964-2006. That remains the longest win streak between two annual opponents in FBS history.
The trophy was named after Edgar “Rip” Miller, who had ties to both schools. He won a national championship as a Notre Dame player and then spent 44 years as a head coach, assistant coach and athletic director at Navy.
14. Alabama vs. Clemson
Total meetings: 19
All-time series: Alabama leads 14-5 (.737 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Clemson vs. Alabama
This is the least-played rivalry on this list, and it didn’t even become a rivalry until the creation of the College Football Playoff. Only 15 matchups took place from 1900-2008, but four took place in consecutive years from 2016-19. All of those four had national championship implications, and the winner each time would become that year’s national champion.
There are many common links between the two schools, as Clemson’s three winningest head coaches — Frank Howard, Dabo Swinney and Danny Ford — all played collegiately at Alabama.
13. BYU vs. Utah
Nickname: Holy War
Trophy: Beehive Boot
Total meetings: 101
All-time series: Utah leads 62-35-4 (.639 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Utah vs. BYU
This rivalry has gotten The Holy War nickname from the fact that BYU is owned by the Mormon Church while over one-third of Utah’s student body identify as Mormon. The two campuses are just 50 miles apart, so they often compete for recruits, and for 89 years, they competed in the same conference.
Conference realignment in 2011 has since prevented this from being an annual series, but the two reunited — in Las Vegas of all places — for the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl. Considering the religious backgrounds of both schools, that bowl game created the tagline “Holy War in Sin City” and was won by Utah 35-28.
12. Texas vs. Texas A&M
Nickname: Lone Star Showdown
Total meetings: 118
All-time series: Texas leads 76-37-5 (.673 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Texas vs. Texas A&M
This is a rivalry that had nearly a 120-year history before conference realignment ended it in 2011. However, with Texas now set to join the SEC, it’s a rivalry that will likely pick back up again, perhaps to the dismay of Texas A&M seeing as it’s been dominated throughout.
But even though the Lone Star Showdown has been one-sided, both schools were in favor of renewing it when in different conferences. A 2017 poll of UT students showed that nearly 97 percent of them were in favor of bringing back the rivalry, while an A&M poll 18 months later showed that almost 89 percent of Aggie students also wanted it to return. Both sets of fans will get their wishes granted when Texas joins the SEC no later than 2025.
11. Auburn vs. Georgia
Nickname: Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry
Total meetings: 126
All-time series: Georgia leads 62-56-8 (.525 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Georgia vs. Auburn
Only Minnesota vs. Wisconsin (132 times) has been contested more often than The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, which dates back to 1892. The first meeting was actually contested eight months earlier than the first game of what’s coined “The South’s Oldest Rivalry,” which is the previously mentioned Virginia vs. UNC.
The two schools have lots of ties, including Georgia’s all-time winningest coach, Vince Dooley, who both played at Auburn and began his coaching career there. Also, former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who the university named its football stadium after, was an All-American player at Georgia.
10. Southern vs. Grambling State
Nickname: Bayou Classic
Trophy: Bayou Classic Trophy
Total meetings: 72
All-time series: Southern leads 37-33 (.529 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Grambling State vs. Southern
The Bayou Classic is the most famous rivalry game between historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). The game has informally been known as the Black Super Bowl and has become entrenched in the culture of New Orleans, which receives roughly $50 million annually in revenue from hosting the game in the Superdome.
But the game is just part of the festivities of Bayou Classic Weekend, as The Battle of the Bands is nearly as important. Southern University’s Human Jukebox band squares off against Grambling’s World Famed Tiger Marching Band, with the choreography of the two bands rivaling anything that happens in major college football.
9. Stanford vs. California
Nickname: Big Game
Trophy: Stanford Axe
Total meetings: 124
All-time series: Stanford leads 65-48-11 (.569 W-L%)
Bottom Line: California vs. Stanford
The Cal-Stanford rivalry transcends football, as numerous other sports have their own “Big” nicknames just as the football rivalry is called the Big Game. The schools’ rivalry in volleyball is known as the Big Spike, while the water polo one is called the Big Splash. The Big Freeze obviously goes to hockey while The Big Meet is when the schools’ track and field teams meet up.
But the Big Game is the most well-known, and it contained one of the most infamous plays in college football history. When the teams played in 1982, Cal was down by a point with four seconds remaining. They then proceeded to lateral five times while the Stanford Band rushed onto the field, thinking the game was over. It wasn’t, and Cal found the endzone to shockingly pull off the win. That play is simply known as The Play in Cal-Stanford lore.
8. Notre Dame vs. University of Southern California
Trophy: Jeweled Shillelagh
Total meetings: 92
All-time series: Notre Dame leads 48-36-5 (.567 W-L%)
Bottom Line: USC vs. Notre Dame
It’s hard to find any two more elite programs than the Irish and the Trojans. They both rank among the top four in national championships won and Heisman trophy winners, and they’ve had numerous memorable moments from The Green Jersey Game to the Bush Push.
What’s also memorable is the trophy given to the winner: The Jeweled Shillelagh. The foot-long club gets a ruby-adorned Trojan head for each USC victory and an emerald-studded shamrock for each Notre Dame win. Since being introduced in 1952, the shillelagh has four more shamrocks than Trojan heads, as Notre Dame has four more wins over that span.
7. Auburn vs. Alabama
Nickname: Iron Bowl
Trophy: Foy-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy
Total meetings: 86
All-time series: Alabama leads 48-37-1 (.564 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Alabama vs. Auburn
While the Iron Bowl is one of the most popular rivalries in all of college football, these in-state rivals once went 41 years without competing against each other. After competing annually for years, in 1908, the two schools couldn’t agree on how much per diems to allow players for the game, which back then competed at a neutral site in Birmingham, Alabama. The two schools didn’t finally reach an agreement on that and other issues until 1948 in which the series resumed.
Recent years have seen some iconic games including the Kick Six in 2013, won by Auburn, and the first overtime game in 2021 — quadruple overtime at that — won by Alabama.
6. Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
Nickname: Border Battle
Trophy: Paul Bunyan’s Axe
Total meetings: 131
All-time series: Wisconsin leads 62-61-8 (.504 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Wisconsin vs. Minnesota
Just one game — one Wisconsin victory — is all that separates these two in head-to-head meetings. That makes the Border Battle the most competitive rivalry on this list, dating back to 1890.
The annual winner gets Paul Bunyan’s Axe, which is an actual 6-foot axe. The scores of each game are engraved on the axe’s handle, and the original axe is now displayed in the College Football Hall of Fame.
5. Harvard vs. Yale
Nickname: The Game
Total meetings: 137
All-time series: Yale leads 68-61-8 (.527 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Yale vs. Harvard
With the first meeting taking place in 1875, this is the second-oldest college football rivalry at all levels, trailing only Princeton vs. Yale (1873). Harvard and Yale are the two oldest Ivy League schools, have the two largest endowments of any school and both boast sub-five percent admission rates.
They also combine for 34 national championships, although none have come since 1927. It’s hard to find two programs or schools that have more history than these two, which is why their annual meeting is simply referred to as The Game.
4. Oregon vs. Oregon State
Nickname: Civil War
Trophy: Platypus Trophy
Total meetings: 125
All-time series: Oregon leads 67-48-10 (.576 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Oregon vs. Oregon State
The most-played in-state rivalry in FBS, the trophy awarded is fitting considering the school’s mascots. Oregon’s is a duck, while Oregon State’s is a beaver; thus, the Platypus Trophy is awarded because it has features of both a duck and a beaver. It was awarded from 1959-61 but then was lost for over 40 years before being rediscovered in 2005 in a closet at the University of Oregon.
However, after viewing the trophy’s abstract uniqueness, the schools declined to make it the official trophy of the rivalry. Thus, it isn’t awarded to either team after a victory and is instead presented to the winning school’s alumni association.
3. Oklahoma vs. Texas
Nickname: Red River Rivalry
Trophy: Golden Hat
Total meetings: 117
All-time series: Texas leads 62-50-5 (.551 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Texas vs. Oklahoma
Known by many additional names, including the Red River Shootout or Red River Showdown, this is the only rivalry on this list featuring two teams among the top five all-time in wins. Texas ranks fourth and OU ranks fifth, and they will carry this rivalry over into the SEC.
Today, fans only know of Dallas’ Cotton Bowl as being the host site for the game, but it’s been played all over the states of Oklahoma and Texas. It’s been competed in Norman and Oklahoma City as well as Houston, Arlington and Austin. But since 1932, it’s been held at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas on the second Saturday in October.
2. Michigan vs. Ohio State
Nickname: The Game
Total meetings: 117
All-time series: Michigan leads 59-51-6 (.536 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Ohio State vs. Michigan
They’ve battled for recruits, respect and Big Ten championships over the last 120-plus years, making it the best rivalry in major college football. The Game was contested annually from 1918-2019 before the pandemic cancelled their 2020 get-together. What makes this rivalry so special is the hatred runs deep not just with players and alums, but also with fans of the schools.
For example, in 2011, a 10-year-old boy from Ohio was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. But instead of referring to it as “cancer,” he called the tumor “Michigan.” He then vowed to beat Michigan just as Ohio State had done each of the previous seven years. He was able to beat Michigan for eight more years until succumbing in 2019.
1. Army vs. Navy
Trophy: Secretary’s Trophy
Total meetings: 121
All-time series: Navy leads 61-53-7 (.535 W-L%)
Bottom Line: Army-Navy Game
A college football institution, the Army-Navy game marks the finale of the college football regular season. The game marked the debut of instant replay in 1963 and has seen 10 sitting presidents attend the game in its history.
These two academies were football powers in the first half of the 20th century, and their annual game often had national championship implications. That isn’t the case anymore, but the rivalry isn’t any less intense or important. “Beat Army” and “Beat Navy” have become entrenched in the lexicon of students, alums and fans of the universities. Along with the service academies rivalry games with the Air Force, whichever team emerges with the best record from the series of games between the three schools gets rewarded with the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the year.